The Supreme Court on Friday announced it would review the high-profile 'Baby Veronica' Indian adoption case, a test of the importance of tribal interests in custody disputes.
The case of Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl arises under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, passed in 1978 to preserve Native American families. It gives top priority to keeping children within Indian families and tribal settings whenever possible in custody disputes.
In the case before the court, Veronica was born in Oklahoma in 2009 to an unwed and separated couple consisting of a non-Indian mother and a Cherokee father. The mother decided to put the child up for adoption, without telling the father. An adoptive couple began raising Veronica in South Carolina, but when the biological father learned of the adoption, he invoked the law to establish custody. The South Carolina Supreme Court, ruling with "heavy heart," said the federal law dictated that the child should be returned to the father. The transfer was made a year ago, with heavy media attention. The case has been discussed on the Dr. Phil and Anderson Cooper talk shows.
The high court's decision to take up the adoptive couple's appeal may also be a testament to the value of having well-known Supreme Court veterans involved in the case before review is granted. Lisa Blatt of Arnold & Porter represents the adoptive parents, former solicitor general Paul Clement of the Bancroft firm filed a brief for the guardian ad litem representing the child, and former SG Gregory Garre is on a brief filed for the birth mother by Garre's Latham & Watkins colleague Lori Alvino McGill. On the other side, representing the father and the Cherokee Nation, is Charles Rothfeld of Mayer Brown, also a veteran high court advocate.
The court also granted review Friday in two other cases: United States v. Davila, a plea-bargaining case, and Tarrant Regional Water District v. Hermann, a dispute over water rights. All three will be argued later this term, most likely in April.